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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 186-193
 Header Item Garda Investigations
 Header Item Fishing Industry Development
 Header Item Rural Environment Protection Scheme Payments
 Header Item Rural Environment Protection Scheme Payments
 Header Item Fish Quotas
 Header Item Fish Stocks
 Header Item Agriculture Schemes Payments
 Header Item Fishing Fleet Protection

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 825 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 186-193

Garda Investigations

 186. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the progress that has been made on the Garda investigation into cockfighting in County Monaghan; and his plans to increase penalties and enforcement of those guilty of this unlawful activity.  [54631/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My officials have been in touch with An Garda Síochána in this matter. I understand that investigations are on-going, that good progress has been made and that a file is being prepared for submission to the Director of Public Prosecutions in the New Year.

Fishing Industry Development

 187. Deputy Michael McCarthy Information on Michael McCarthy Zoom on Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the supports available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork who wants to develop and expand a fishing enterprise; the financial assistance and practical supports available to assist this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54487/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney A range of supports are available to the seafood sector through the Seafood Development Programme 2007-2013, which may continue to operate up to the end of 2015. A new development programme for the period 2014-2020 is presently being developed by my Department to implement the proposed EU Regulation for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

  The principal measure under the present Programme for the development of the aquaculture sector is the Commercial Aquaculture Development Scheme. This Scheme is delivered by both Bord Iascaigh Mhara and Údarás na Gaeltachta. The Scheme provides grants of up to 40% of eligible costs to licensed aquaculture operators. The Scheme is aimed at promoting investment in the sustainable development and modernisation of aquaculture SME’s. The Scheme supports investments in the construction, extension, equipment and modernisation of aquaculture sites, in particular with a view to improving working conditions, hygiene, human or animal health and product quality, and reducing negative impact or enhancing positive effects on the environment. Investments must contribute to one or more of the following objectives:

a) diversification towards new species and production of species with good market prospects;

b) implementation of aquaculture methods substantially reducing negative impact or enhancing positive effects on the environment when compared with normal practice in the aquaculture sector;

c) support for traditional aquaculture activities important for preserving and developing both the economic and social fabric and the environment;

d) support for the purchase of equipment aiming at protecting the farms from wild predators; and

e) improvement of the working and safety conditions of aquaculture workers.

  To be eligible to avail of the Scheme, an aquaculture site must have a valid current aquaculture licence, i.e. not awaiting licence renewal. Any site located in a Natura 2000 area must also have undergone the necessary environmental assessments required under the Habitats Directive and be licensed in accordance with the outcome of that assessment.

  Further details of this and other financial supports to the aquaculture sector are available at www.bim.ie/schemes. In addition, BIM also provides professional advice and assistance to the aquaculture sector on husbandry matters.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme Payments

 188. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney when a 2013 REPS 4 payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54499/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The person named commenced REPS 4 in June 2008 and received payments for the first five years of their contract.

REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue. Following the Land Parcel Identification Review (LPIS) an area discrepancy was identified which has resulted in the necessity for further clarification. This issue is currently being investigated with the intention of an early resolution and payment in respect of 2013.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme Payments

 189. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney when a 2013 REPS 4 payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54500/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The person named commenced REPS 4 in June 2009 and received payments for the first four years of their contract.

REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue. Following the Land Parcel Identification Review (LPIS) an area discrepancy was identified which has resulted in the necessity for further clarification. This issue is currently being investigated with the intention of an early resolution and payment in respect of 2013.

Fish Quotas

 190. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will consider changes to the herring quota to allow inshore fishermen to carry their tonnage quota onto the next month if weather conditions prevent them from fishing on a given month. [54505/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The current management arrangements in place for the Celtic Sea fishery, were recommended by the Celtic Sea Herring Management Advisory Committee (CSHMAC). Quota allocations with weekly catch limits are set following consultation with the CSHMAC for each management period, taking consideration of numbers and size of vessels booked-in. These arrangements were put in place having regard to the size of the vessels involved in the fishery and the time of year in which the fishing takes place.

The position in relation to the management of all fisheries, both pelagic and whitefish, is that the quota is managed on a single year basis and under fishing by any group of vessels is not carried forward to the following year for that group. For all stocks, any carry over from 2013, which can be up to 10 % in the case of Celtic Sea Herring, will be added to the national adjusted quota for 2014. In line with policy, the Celtic Sea Herring sentinel fishery will receive up to 11% of the adjusted quota, each year.

Fish Stocks

 191. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if the Marine Institute has carried out any reports or surveys on salmon numbers around our coast in recent times and, if so, the findings of same.  [54506/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Marine Institute does not carry out surveys of salmon stocks around the coast. The status of salmon stocks in Ireland is assessed and reported by the Standing Scientific Committee for Salmon (SSCS) which provides annual stock assessment and catch advice on numbers of fish to Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), which falls within the remit of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Marine Institute scientists participate on the SSCS.

Agriculture Schemes Payments

 192. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will review the practice of backdating penalties on the single farm payment scheme in view of the impact these excessive penalties are having on farmers' payments after a very difficult period for the farming industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54512/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Deputy will be fully aware of the value of the EU funded Direct Payment Schemes to Ireland. Each year farmers in Ireland benefit from funding of over €1.5 billion under Schemes such as the Single Farm Payment Scheme, the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, the Agri-Environment Schemes, etc. This comprises the entire net income of many thousands of Irish farmers.

The European Commission has an obligation to ensure that Member States manage and use the EU funding granted to them in accordance with the very restrictive provisions governing the Schemes and general financial provisions. Under the Common Agricultural Policy, this is done by way of a Clearance of Accounts procedure. This is a formal process and both the Commission and Member States are obliged to adhere to the requirements laid down in the legislation.

In the case of Ireland, the Clearance procedure is currently covering five financial years involving the 2008 to 2012 scheme-years. The total amount of EU funds under audit scrutiny in the process is approximately €7.5 billion. I can assure the Deputy that every effort is being made to ensure that Ireland’s case and the position of Irish farmers is strenuously argued during the process.

I can also reassure the Deputy that every effort is being made to protect the interests of all Irish farmers during the process including the interest of that majority of farmers, who were fully compliant in the declarations they made on an annual basis under the Schemes. This is an extremely serious process. During the years 2002 to 2012, the Commission imposed financial corrections amounting to almost €5 billion on Member States. Ireland’s share of this amounted 0.5% of the total amount corrected – one of the lowest percentages among Member States.

Under the EU Regulations, the Commission has to right to impose a flat-rate correction of 2%, 5%, 10%, or greater, depending of its assessment of the risk to the EU Fund involved. A 2% correction on the 2008 – 2012 scheme years would mean a loss of €150m in funding to Ireland. On the other hand, the level of the correction can be based on the assessed risk if the Member State can establish the risk and the Commission are satisfied with the calculations. In such circumstances, if the risk is dealt with by the Member State by collecting the debts arising from the over-payments, the amounts collected is taken into account by the Commission in its final assessment. This is the approach Ireland is following.

Fishing Fleet Protection

 193. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of Northern Ireland registered vessels fishing in Republic of Ireland waters under the voisinage agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54523/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The issues raised by this Question overlap substantially with the ongoing High Court proceedings which have been allocated High Court Record Nos. 2006/2687P and 2012/11047P. Both of these cases are returnable in the High Court on 28 January 2014. In the circumstances, I am advised that it would be inappropriate to respond to this Question during the currency of these proceedings, which are currently being litigated before the Courts.


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